Writing this column for the best part of 16 years, there are some things I notice over and over.
The first is how difficult it can be to separate your current demeanour from what you commit to print and the second is that it is much, much easier to write about negative things than positive things. That second observation probably explains why news reporting seems so negative – it presses buttons and it’s easier. But here’s the thing – taken overall, there must be more positive events/occurrences than negatives, otherwise the human race would go backwards. Sure it can regress, and sometimes for long periods, but ultimately (at least in the West), the human race compared with 5000 years ago, 1000 years ago or even 100 years ago, is undoubtedly better off. So although we can face challenging times, eventually the wheel turns. We need to recognise that, and support those with enough balls to drive the change.
As I have written before, our region has been slipping for 50 years, probably more, and in the last 20, probably at an increasing rate. But something new is happening, and it is worth highlighting. It concerns our council, an organisation with which I have long had an unstable relationship. I think the council is changing and I think the change will be for the good of all.
The last few months provides undoubted clues. Recently the mayor stated that the time for undertaking more studies was over – ‘run it up the flagpole and see who salutes’ is essentially what she said – that’s entrepreneurial, and provided risks are appropriated managed, it’s totally right. So now we have a real live trial regarding commercial international flights, investment in bike tracks in Mt Archer’s foothills, development related to a cultural precinct and Fitzroy River Water considering the use of solar power (a project which will almost certainly stack up).
Years ago I wrote that the region’s 18 or so economic development organisations were in fact holding the region back. More than a decade later, it seems council has taken on the role. Multilingual and educated, the employment of Young Beamish is a masterstroke providing a credible conduit for international interest in our region. Scott Waters, who amongst other things is responsible for our airport, is more an entrepreneur than a public servant, and deserves accolades for the clever pitch to Adani – which involved building an airport and organising an airline to service the proposed mine (initiatives both totally within council’s control).
While there are still many in the community that think council should be about potholes and poo, those tasks go without saying. Our community desperately needs economic leadership, and from Cairns to Newcastle to Werribee, progressive councils provide that. A rising tide lifts all boats, and in our region that means more jobs, more people, and busier shops. It’s more than that though, the biggest thing is it means a rekindling of purpose, and pride in our region. That folks, is the most valuable thing of all.